San Jose, Calif. ? It had been more than two years since we had driven the Nissan Altima so when we scheduled a trip to California to see our grandson play in a couple of high school baseball games, we asked Nissan if we could borrow the latest model for a few days.
The Nissan Altima is Nissan?s best-selling model it has grown through five generations in size and popularity, and has landed in the top 10 best-selling vehicles list for the last several years continually pushing Toyota Camry and Corolla for leadership in the sedan segment.
If you watch automotive advertising, you?ll likely remember the ?Ride of Your Life? commercials Nissan ran for the Altima last year. The premise was Nissan was taking people for rides in an Altima race car on the track. Then when they got back to the pits, the pit crew proceeded to pulled out all the fake race equipment and exterior markings leaving a stock Nissan Altima. (Bill got a chance to drive that car last year, and it felt much like the real thing.)
This year Nissan is bringing the ?Ride of Your Life? campaign back with the ride starting from a big box at a shopping center and ending up on a race track. To see the commercial on YouTube go to https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YLJ0TwlKp4o&feature=youtu.be .
All new in the 2013 model year, the Altima has a refined premium look with an aggressive front end styling, sculpted fenders, seamless bumper and slick headlight pods. The front end treatment is followed by a high waistline, long sloping roofline and raised trunk. It all creates an attractive and sophisticated look for such a reasonably priced sedan. The design not only looks good, but it creates a low drag coefficient of 0.29, helping the mid-size sedan to achieve its impressive fuel economy ratings.
The interior is simple and attractive and features Nissan?s Zero Gravity front seats. The seats were developed using seating and posture research from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). According to NASA, the least fatiguing seats are those that come closest to a “neutral posture” ? a relaxed position that the human body takes in a weightless environment. Sure these aren?t the seats the astronauts use, but they are very comfortable and quite attractive, too.
Our 2015 Nissan Altima 2.5 SV test car had standard cloth seats, that looked nice and felt good, but leather (which is standard on the upper level SL model) is our favorite. The rear seat is wide with room enough for three adults and good knee room, even when the front seats are adjusted all the way back. Cargo space on the Altima is about average for cars in this class, 15.4 cubic feet.
We were impressed by the smooth quiet ride of the Altima. Engineers have made extra efforts to reduce noise from the powertrain, climate system and body by increasing sound absorption materials by 30 percent over the previous generation.
The 2015 Nissan Altima is available in five trim levels: 2.5, 2.5 S, 2.5 SV, 2.5 SL and 3.5 SL. All the 2.5 models have a standard 182-hp DOHC 2.5-liter four-cylinder engine. The engine has variable valve timing on both intake and exhaust cams. The premium engine is Nissan?s venerable 270-hp 3.5-liter V-6. Both engines drive the front wheels through Nissan?s Xtronic CVT (Continuously Variable Transmission). As we?ve often mentioned, we prefer geared transmissions, but admit this CVT feels more like a conventional transmission. The V-6 transmission uses a new Nissan technology called D-Step Shift logic, which simulates the feel of a conventional automatic transmission and it also has steering wheel-mounted shift paddles.
The 2.5-liter four-cylinder accelerates from 0 to 60 mph in 8.0 seconds according to buff magazine tests, but we thought it felt a little faster when accelerating full throttle down a freeway on-ramp into fast moving traffic. The V-6 is much quicker, however, producing 0 to 60 mph times of 6.1-seconds. The four-cylinder fuel economy is listed by the EPA at 27 mpg city, 38 mpg highway and 31 mpg combined. We actually averaged 32.5 mpg during our time in the car. The V-6 is rated at 22 mpg city, 32 mpg highway and 26 mpg combined.
Of course, no trip to the Central California Coast would be complete without at least one run over Hecker Pass on Hwy 156. The windy road and sharp corners are fun and a great test of the car?s suspension. The Altima has a four-wheel independent suspension with struts in front and a multi-link rear suspension. They provide very good handling characteristics and a smooth ride with no body lean and little dip and dive during braking and acceleration. The Altima also has an Active Understeer Control system that works with the intelligent control logic and high-response brake actuators to brake inside front wheels when required during cornering to maintain a more neutral steering control.
Our mid-level Altima 2.5 SV included features like Nissan Connect? with Mobile Apps, four-inch Nissan Advanced Drive-Assist? LDC Display, keyless entry and steering wheel control. There was also a Remote Engine Start System with Intelligent Climate Control, 17-inch aluminum-alloy wheels, RearView Monitor, SiriusXM? Satellite Radio, USB port with iPod? connectivity, Hands-Free Messaging Assistant. The options included the Convenience and Technology Packages which added several driver aids, power moonroof, HomeLink?, navigation with seven-inch color screen, Blind Spot Warning, Lane Departure Warning, Moving Object Detection and the Sirius XM Traffic and Travel Link.
Prices range from $23,125, including the destination charge, for the 2.5 up to $28,975for the 2.5 SL. The V-6-powered 3.5 SL is $33,175. A fully loaded 3.5 SL tops out at $34,515. Our 2.5 SV test car with the two major options and carpet mats was $28,160.
By the way, our grandson?s team won one, and lost one in a close call. We thought he played great.